Friday, December 27, 2013

Song #458 of 9999 - Make Your Own Kind of Music by Cass Elliot

Song #458 of 9999

Title: Make Your Own Kind of Music
Artist: Cass Elliot
Year: 1969
Album: Bubblegum, Lemonade, and... Something For Mama

Mama Cass Elliot's "Make Your Own Kind of Music" has found a new audience over the last decade or so, having appeared prominently in TV's Lost and Dexter. And due to the trend of watching and re-watching these shows on streaming services like Netflix, I reckon the song will remain popular for years to come. Which I find interesting, considering it had all but been forgotten before J.J. Abrams decided it was right for Desmond's turntable. 

So just why was the song chosen? What attributes made it right for two shows that are rather mysterious and dark? In the case of Lost, we must first start with the obvious, i.e. Desmond had been there for a long time and the song would have been popular during the time that the Dharma Initiative set up shop. But of all the songs from the late 1960s/early 1970s, why this one? 

I'm speculating of course, but I think one aspect of the song Abrams may have found attractive was its sunny optimism, which makes for nice dramatic contrast with the bleakness of Desmond's situation. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you may want to go grab yourself a 2-week trial subscription to Netflix and get started.)  But there are some other, musically structural, aspects that make it attractive. Here is a song from that time period that takes less than thirty seconds to get to the chorus! This is quite normal for today's pop songs, which aim to account for the decreased attention spans of teenagers (well, everyone) by getting right to the hook, but not in 1969. Songs were getting longer, not shorter, and it's rare to find a song with such a quick verse/pre-chorus/chorus succession. I think this would have been deemed ideal for a television scene where you may not have time to wait a minute or longer to get to the chorus. 

And once that chorus comes, it's a doozy. A rising harmonic progression (I-iii-IV-V) is punctuated by snare hits on every beat, with Elliot's powerful voice imparting an earnest bit of advice to go your own way—just as she had from The Mamas and The Papas a year earlier. And in conclusion, a bevy of dramatic quarter note triplets spread across six beats that spills out onto a dominant with 4-3 suspension. It's a really well-construed piece for any decade and was definitely ready for today's primetime.

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